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Seventeen years after starting Farm Aid, Nelson still pushing for change

By Todd Spangler
Saturday September 21, 2002

PITTSBURGH — When Willie Nelson helped start Farm Aid in 1985, he and the other organizers — John Mellencamp and Neil Young — held out hope their message about the plight of America’s small family farmers would be heard, and Congress would react. 

Seventeen years later, Nelson is still waiting for that to happen. 

“What has changed is that nothing has changed,” the 69-year-old singer-songwriter said before this year’s Farm Aid benefit concert, the 15th in the series. “That’s what has made me more unhappy than everything else.” 

Nelson will be joined by Kid Rock, Neil Young, Mellencamp and other performers in the Saturday’s concert outside Pittsburgh. It will be broadcast live on CMT. 

In 14 concerts over 16 years, Farm Aid has raised some $24 million. Since the beginning, the money has financed organizations and efforts that directly help farmers struggling to keep their farms in the face of foreclosures. 

But Nelson — who was disappointed by passage this year of a farm bill he believes provides little benefit to small farmers — said that, when the concert series began, he thought politicians might rally to the cause and find a way to protect small farmers from losing their land.